Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Sowell on Benefits vs. Costs

 

“Weighing benefits against costs is the way most people make decisions — and the way most businesses make decisions, if they want to stay in business. Only in government is any benefit, however small, considered to be worth any cost, however large.”– Thomas Sowell

In recent days, I have been wishing to hear from Thomas Sowell on our current pandemic predicament. Fortunately, he has already produced enough quotable wisdom to last for millennia. And he saw this moment coming. Whether politicians, or anyone else, will ever truly take heed of the lessons he has taught is another matter. There is so much that no one knows at this point, especially about the true benefits of current stay-at-home policies. We are seeing the costs adding up quickly, and it seems to me that they will only get worse.

For Governor Cuomo, the appeal of stating that saving one life is worth whatever it takes is obvious. It communicates that he cares. And he doesn’t want to be blamed for countless deaths that it might have been possible to avoid. Allowing citizens and residents to freely interact presents greater risks than rewards. As a Virginia resident, I am looking toward June 10th as the earliest possible chance for a return to normalcy. How many small business owners will have seen their lives’ work destroyed by then? How many retirees will have had their life savings evaporate? Perhaps Americans could figure out more nuanced ways to minimize the spread of disease while continuing to conduct business, but can politicians?

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  1. RightAngles Member

    I’m very concerned that there are too many in government who would love to see the economy collapse. They know that this is when socialism can take hold. I’m sure Trump knows it too, though. so I can only hope he doesn’t let this drag on for too much longer.

    • #1
    • April 3, 2020, at 3:57 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  2. OldPhil Coolidge

    As a Virginia resident, I am looking toward June 10th as the earliest possible chance for a return to normalcy.

    It’s not going to be normal as long as Goobernor Northam has any say.

    • #2
    • April 3, 2020, at 4:15 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  3. Hoyacon Member

    I agree 100% with the quote. Applied to this situation, it presents the difficulty of assessing “benefits.” It’s hard to do cost/benefit without that side of the equation.

    P.S. We really need to do a Virginia meet-up when this goes away.

    • #3
    • April 3, 2020, at 4:36 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  4. Full Size Tabby Member

    Lilly B: Weighing benefits against costs is the way most people make decisions — and the way most businesses make decisions, if they want to stay in business.

    We do that in our individual lives too.

    Few of us drive a car with the most and latest safety devices because cars with all the latest safety devices tend to be expensive, and the cost of a new $80,000 car every year or two is more than we’re willing to pay for the marginal increase in personal safety for ourselves or our families.

    When bicycling we may put on a helmet but we don’t put on a full coverage protective suit because we perceive the risk of a crash-related injury and the severity of the possible injury to be less than the problems associated with wearing a full coverage protective suit.

    But when we ride a motorcycle (higher speeds in greater proximity to cars and trucks), the risk of a crash-related injury and the severity of the possible injury are much greater than they are on a bicycle, so we do wear a full coverage protective suit when riding a motorcycle. 

    • #4
    • April 3, 2020, at 4:42 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  5. Saint Augustine Member

    Lilly B:

    For Governor Cuomo, the appeal of stating that saving one life is worth whatever it takes is obvious.

    Unless it’s an unborn life.

    How many small business owners will have seen their lives’ work destroyed by then? How many retirees will have had their life savings evaporate? Perhaps Americans could figure out more nuanced ways to minimize the spread of disease while continuing to conduct business, but can politicians? 

    And this economic catastrophe will lead to deaths. Suicides for a start.

    More suicide in America than lives saved from the coronavirus? I have no idea.

    In some places people who live hand-to-mouth are not allowed to work–like poor rickshaw drivers in Pakistan. The brick kiln workers are already living in slavery (or indentured servitude) and extreme poverty. I know people who are helping, and I’ve sent a little money their way. I imagine the government is doing something.

    Hopefully no one is slipping through the cracks and starving yet. But it’s only a matter of time unless the curve is flattened enough in a hurry, or until MASSIVE use of antibody tests allow people to start working.

    Only G-d will know how many died from the economic catastrophe in ways we mortals cannot trace: because a weak economy couldn’t get gas and electricity to poor families in developing countries, because a shrinking American economy wasn’t able to support medical research at the same level, etc.

    • #5
    • April 3, 2020, at 5:01 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  6. Samuel Block Support

    Appropriate!

    I’ve had words of Thomas Sowell pop into my head quite a few times over the last few weeks.

    • #6
    • April 3, 2020, at 5:06 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  7. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Lilly B:

    For Governor Cuomo, the appeal of stating that saving one life is worth whatever it takes is obvious.

    Unless it’s an unborn life.

    Yep. I have not forgotten Cuomo’s previous statements on pro-life citizens not being welcome in NY. Given that utter disregard for human life, I was appalled by his emotional monologue about his concern for his mother and other older people, as if anyone who disagreed with specific actions or policies didn’t value the lives of every individual at risk from COVID-19. I get why he’s saying those sorts of things now, but I definitely noticed the hypocrisy.

    • #7
    • April 3, 2020, at 5:18 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  8. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    I’m very concerned that there are too many in government who would love to see the economy collapse. They know that this is when socialism can take hold. I’m sure Trump knows it too, though. so I can only hope he doesn’t let this drag on for too much longer.

    I agree, and I share your hope. We didn’t elect Dr. Fauci to dictate how the country should be run. I trust Trump far more in seeing the bigger picture on health benefits v. economic ruin.

    • #8
    • April 3, 2020, at 5:22 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. Vectorman Thatcher

    Lilly B: As a Virginia resident, I am looking toward June 10th as the earliest possible chance for a return to normalcy.

    That’s over 2 months from now! That’s madness…

    The basic treatment is known, so why not ~2 weeks from now?


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    • #9
    • April 3, 2020, at 5:55 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  10. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Everything Thomas Sowell says or writes is just so sensible and clear and true.

    I remember several years ago Jason Riley mentioned on a podcast that he was working on a biography of Thomas Sowell. Does anyone know if it ever materialized?

    • #10
    • April 3, 2020, at 7:36 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    Lilly B: As a Virginia resident, I am looking toward June 10th as the earliest possible chance for a return to normalcy.

    That’s over 2 months from now! That’s madness…

    The basic treatment is known, so why not ~2 weeks from now?

    I know! I’m not the only Virginian to wonder why the government couldn’t have called for a shorter shut-down and a call to reassess after a few weeks. They had already cancelled school through the end of the year on March 23rd, which means that a lot of people were effectively going to be home with kids through June anyway. 

    • #11
    • April 3, 2020, at 7:39 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. OldPhil Coolidge

    Lilly B (View Comment):

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    Lilly B: As a Virginia resident, I am looking toward June 10th as the earliest possible chance for a return to normalcy.

    That’s over 2 months from now! That’s madness…

    The basic treatment is known, so why not ~2 weeks from now?

    I know! I’m not the only Virginian to wonder why the government couldn’t have called for a shorter shut-down and a call to reassess after a few weeks. They had already cancelled school through the end of the year on March 23rd, which means that a lot of people were effectively going to be home with kids through June anyway.

    See the source image

    • #12
    • April 3, 2020, at 7:53 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Randy Webster Member

    Lilly B (View Comment):
    I get why he’s saying those sorts of things now, but I definitely noticed the hypocrisy.

    Isn’t he supposed to be Catholic?

    • #13
    • April 3, 2020, at 7:57 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Weeping Member

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    Lilly B: As a Virginia resident, I am looking toward June 10th as the earliest possible chance for a return to normalcy.

    That’s over 2 months from now! That’s madness…

    The basic treatment is known, so why not ~2 weeks from now?

    That’s exactly what I wondered when my county decided to extend the shelter-in-place orders until May 20th. (The original ones were supposed to end tonight at midnight.)

    CORRECTION: The orders have been extended until April 30th, not May 20th. The judge issuing the orders apparently changed his mind.

    • #14
    • April 3, 2020, at 9:17 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  15. Headedwest Coolidge

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Lilly B: Weighing benefits against costs is the way most people make decisions — and the way most businesses make decisions, if they want to stay in business.

    We do that in our individual lives too.

    Few of us drive a car with the most and latest safety devices because cars with all the latest safety devices tend to be expensive, and the cost of a new $80,000 car every year or two is more than we’re willing to pay for the marginal increase in personal safety for ourselves or our families.

    When bicycling we may put on a helmet but we don’t put on a full coverage protective suit because we perceive the risk of a crash-related injury and the severity of the possible injury to be less than the problems associated with wearing a full coverage protective suit.

    But when we ride a motorcycle (higher speeds in greater proximity to cars and trucks), the risk of a crash-related injury and the severity of the possible injury are much greater than they are on a bicycle, so we do wear a full coverage protective suit when riding a motorcycle.

    Motorcycle riders (of the safety persuasion) use the acronym ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) to remind themselves that even a trip to the local store has enough risk that it is worth wearing the full set of armored gear.

    Yes, it’s a pain to spend 10 minutes gearing up for a 5 minute ride, but for me that illustrated that my motorcycle was not the best choice for a quick run to the store, no matter how attractive it might otherwise be. So for me that meant I only used the motorcycle for rides that were long enough to warrant the time to gear up.

    • #15
    • April 3, 2020, at 9:28 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  16. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    Reply

    I thought the “separation of personal beliefs from public policy” let Catholic Democrats off the hook a long time ago. 

    • #16
    • April 4, 2020, at 10:00 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Randy Webster Member

    Lilly B (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    Reply

    I thought the “separation of personal beliefs from public policy” let Catholic Democrats off the hook a long time ago.

    I don’t know the ins and outs of Catholic policy, but it seems hard to square Catholic faith with partial birth abortion.

    • #17
    • April 4, 2020, at 10:12 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Lilly B (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    Reply

    I thought the “separation of personal beliefs from public policy” let Catholic Democrats off the hook a long time ago.

    I don’t know the ins and outs of Catholic policy, but it seems hard to square Catholic faith with partial birth abortion.

    You can’t. I’m not advocating for that position. I just think that’s the excuse those politicians have given to continue winning Democratic elections. I’m neither Catholic nor a Democrat. But I am pro-life, so it’s pretty appalling to have Governors Cuomo and Northam dictating to us about how we’ll live our lives, or rather refrain from living them. 

    • #18
    • April 4, 2020, at 11:27 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. Roderic Coolidge

    Lilly B: For Governor Cuomo, the appeal of stating that saving one life is worth whatever it takes is obvious.

    Not a big fan of the governor, but what he is considering is the price of an extra million lives lost, not one life.

    • #19
    • April 4, 2020, at 1:51 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  20. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Roderic (View Comment):

    Lilly B: For Governor Cuomo, the appeal of stating that saving one life is worth whatever it takes is obvious.

    Not a big fan of the governor, but what he is considering in the price of an extra million lives lost, not one life.

    I appreciate that and I know that governors are trying to minimize large scale loss of life, but Cuomo did state the issue in that way. 

    • #20
    • April 4, 2020, at 3:03 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  21. Darin Johnson Member

    Of course. Unfortunately, in cases like this, the uncertainties are so large that plausible (or seemingly plausible) assumptions can support just about any course of action. Governors will do what they want and work out the justification afterwards. 

    The problem as I see it is that for your typical governor the incentive to shut down more and longer has no counter-incentive. Shutting down and locking up is the “safe” choice.

    • #21
    • April 5, 2020, at 6:47 AM PDT
    • 6 likes